Thanks to a partnership between the Canadian Gas Association (CGA) and YPAC, Shubham Garg was invited to attend CGAs Operations, Engineering Integrity, and Construction (OEIC) conference in Calgary on February 26 and 27 (Day 2 and Day 3) in Calgary.  Shubham was one of three young pipeliners selected to attend the conference free-of-charge through a contest held by CGA.  The successful contest submissions discussed natural gas’ role in Canada’s diverse energy portfolio, the economy, and emissions reduction targets.

Held annually, the OEIC conference focuses on open discussion and exchange of ideas around all aspects of natural gas delivery systems. This year’s conference had an emphasis on addressing environmental policy through natural gas innovation. Thus, the conference discussed a variety of topics such as safety standards, program optimization, automation, pipeline assessments, and methods to reduce leaks and emissions.

Day 2 of the conference began with an overview of The Federation of Alberta Gas Co-ops which included a brief history on how the organization started and day-to-day operations required to keep the world’s largest rural natural gas distribution network going. Following that was a very interesting panel on hydrogen energy and ways to add hydrogen into the Canadian energy mix. 3 panelists discussed the current state of hydrogen energy along with future development plans. There was a very noticeable buzz around the room when Sam McDermott with Enbridge Gas spoke about their 2.5 MW hydrogen project in operation near the Markham, Ontario area. This plant uses excess electricity supply and an electrolyser to convert water into hydrogen which can then be blended into the natural gas stream and help reduce carbon emissions. Most people are not aware that hydrogen can be used as an energy source for heating, electricity, and transportation which is why attending these conferences is a great way to broaden one’s horizons.

Attendees then had an opportunity to choose between 1 of 4 sessions, each relating to the OEIC (Operations, Engineering, Integrity, Construction) aspects of this event. The pre-lunch and post-lunch sessions encompassed subjects such as pipeline pigging, leak detection, water crossings, material tracking, line locates, and a futuristic topic of 3D/VR Modelling. Amazingly, all sessions had roughly the same turnout which goes to show the variety of topics and interests as well as excellent planning by conference organizers. Day 2 ended with a summary of the incident investigation report regarding Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts gas explosions in 2018. One of the biggest takeaways was that Massachusetts’ natural gas distribution network currently in operation, some of which is over a century old, has not been signed off or stamped by a Professional Engineer. Thus, the regulatory changes stemming from this incident are likely to be significant which is why many operators have already began refurbishing their existing infrastructure and implementing better procedures for new construction. A networking mixer afterwards gave attendees the chance to discuss presentations, exchange ideas, and make connections. Interestingly, most conference participants travelled from out of town including large groups from Edmonton and Ontario along with other delegates coming in from Vancouver, Kelowna, Regina, Winnipeg, Minneapolis, New York and even as far as Italy.

Day 3 started off with another 2 rounds of concurrent sessions, this time focusing on gas quality monitoring, asset management, hydrotesting, leak detection, and a fascinating session on artificial intelligence by URBINT. After that, everyone got together for a final time to attend the panel discussing new innovations in the natural gas industry. Speakers from FortisBC, ATCO, and NGIF each explained how their organizations are focusing efforts on innovation and some of the new and unique projects they are currently working on. This was a great way to end the conference on a positive note by highlighting the importance of innovation and striving to be best-in-class operators.

Throughout the proceedings, CGA’s cell-phone application built specifically for this conference was a great help as it contained a floor plan, program, exhibitor info, speaker info, attendee info, and a scavenger hunt to win prizes. Based on the rating system within the app, hydrogen was a clear winner as the hydrogen panel on Day 2 ended with a 4.9/5-star rating on 54 reviews which made it the highest rated by-far. Maybe a sign of the future for Canada’s energy mix?

Michael Conway – Integral Engineering, Shubham Garg – Modern Resources, David McConkey – CGA Director of Operations, Safety, and Security, John Milner – ATCO, and Vincent Chou – Altagas and 2020 CGA Conference Chair

Shubham Garg is an Outreach Lead for YPAC’s Impact on Industry committee and a Field Engineer-In-Training at Modern Resources. Shubham helps Modern continue to be an industry leader in environmental stewardship and operational performance whilst developing its top-tier Deep Basin asset base.